I have a Google Wave account, and have played around with it in pathetically rudimentary ways. I even had some extra invites to join the new communications platform, and was besieged by requests for them. (Google slaves do the begging for Google faves.)
The hilarious saga of a blogger auctioning Wave invites on eBay suggests some of the hysteria around the release of 100,000 invites to check out the new platform. Even searching for invites online can cause you to wander into some weird neighborhoods.
This is reminiscent of the lines to buy iPhones. (The photo above is of a line in Boston for the 3G when it as released in July, 2008. Today, who wants a 3G?) If technology and social media are the new rock 'n' roll, this might be the equivalent of screaming so loud you can't hear The Beatles. A lot of this hype. Google Wave isn't anything yet, and a lot of what it offers was available on Google Docs. It's lonely on there, and buggy and not relevant yet.
But here's what I think Google Wave adds to the conversation:
We used to think of composed communications as being sent when they were completed. You wrote a letter and mailed it. You wrote an e-mail and sent it.
Then real-time meant you didn't have to wait. You could send right away. This took the immediacy of a phone call and put it online with chat and Twitter.
Wave adds another option: The incremental, periodic communication. People collaborating on a communication that is somewhere between immediate and completed. The process becomes transparent. The conversation becomes the product.
And the big question is: Will this change how we exchange information?
I think it will -- maybe not in the form of Google Wave, but using this philosophy. I think communication is, by nature, incremental and collaborative. At a cocktail party, one conversation doesn't end before another begins. Groups of people flow in and out of topics and add what they have to contribute. (And, these days, that sometimes includes pulling out an iPhone to show photos or videos.)
Waiting until a document is completed now seems archaic. Blurting out whatever is top of mind is, as we are discovering, sometimes too ephemeral. Wave suggests a compromise: A transparent process in which the ephemeral gradually adds up to something more lasting.
I do think that's a significant contribution, and a good thing to think about in an open, growing conversation.
BTW, I sold my invites for $100 apiece.
Kidding. But they are all gone.